The Red Turtle

The Red Turtle Information

The Red Turtle () is a 2016 animated fantasy drama film co-written and directed by Dutch animator Michal Dudok de Wit and produced by Toshio Suzuki from Japan. The film is a co-production between Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli, and tells the story of a man who becomes shipwrecked on a deserted island and meets a giant red female turtle. The film has no dialogue. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The film was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Film for the 89th Academy Awards.


A nameless man set adrift by a storm wakes up on a deserted island. The man finds that the island is rich in resources, finding fresh fruit and water as well as a variety of small animals and a dense bamboo forest, and prepares to leave the island. The man builds a raft from bamboo, and attempts to sail away. However, an unseen sea creature destroys the raft, forcing the man back to the island. Attempting to escape with another raft, his plan is foiled again by the sea creature. Trying a third time his raft is again destroyed, but once in the water he finds a red turtle facing him. The turtle does not harm the man, and the man retreats back to the island.

That evening, the man sees the red turtle crawling on the shore, attempting to go inland. In revenge, he hits the red turtle on the head with a bamboo stick, and pushes it over on its back. After halfway through building another raft, the man starts to feel remorse about leaving the turtle upside down and tries to save the turtle by flipping it over but it's too heavy. He desperately runs to get some water to revive the turtle but realizes that it's dead, and falls asleep next to it. The turtle's shell splits down the middle during the night and to the man's surprise, he sees a woman lying inside of the turtle shell. The man tries to revive her, making a shelter over her to protect her from the sun. When rain hits the island, the woman wakes up. The man notices she has gone, and searches the island for her, finally seeing that she is on the coastline. Giving her his shirt, he eventually sees the woman is wearing his shirt, but she is dragging the now empty turtle shell into the sea and setting it off. The man does the same with his half-built raft. The two soon form a strong and enduring romance.

Some years later, the couple has a son who is a curious boy who finds a glass bottle and learns about his origin. After accidentally falling into a small cavern, the son learns to swim on his own and forms a peculiar relationship with other turtles in the ocean. Growing up, the son grows accustomed to the island. When he goes into the island for fresh water with his bottle, a tsunami hits the island. Though no one is severely hurt, the island's forest is nearly demolished by it. After cleaning up the island and burning the remains of bamboo, the son has a dream of swimming away from the island. He tells his parents that it's time for him to leave their nest as a sign of his growth into full adulthood and he swims away with a trio of green turtles.

The man and the woman spend the rest of their lives on the island, growing old but still much in love with one another. One night the man sees the moon over the ocean for the final time and closes his eyes as the woman immediately realizes his sudden passing and grieves deeply. The next morning she lies next to him with deep sadness, holds the man's hand one last time, and then transforms back into the red turtle and returns to the sea.


The film was co-produced by Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli in association with Why Not Productions. According to Vincent Maraval, head of Wild Bunch, he visited Studio Ghibli in Japan in 2008 and met with Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki showed him the short film Father and Daughter and asked him to find its director, Michal Dudok de Wit, with the prospect of co-producing a feature film. Wild Bunch approached Dudok de Wit in London and convinced him to take on the project. The screenplay was written by Dudok de Wit and Pascale Ferran.


The film premiered on 18 May at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed in the Un Certain Regard section. On 13 June, it was screened as the opening film of the 2016 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The regular French release was 29 June 2016. It was released in Japan on 17 September 2016. In May 2016, Sony Pictures Classics acquired the North and Latin American distribution rights for the film and was released in the United States on 20 January 2017. The Red Turtle was played in the London Film Festival on 5 October 2016 and eventually released in the United Kingdom by StudioCanal on May 26, 2017.


Critical response

The Red Turtle received critical acclaim. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 94% score based on 108 reviews, with an average of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Red Turtle adds to Studio Ghibli's estimable legacy with a beautifully animated effort whose deceptively simple story boasts narrative layers as richly absorbing as its lovely visuals." Metacritic reports an 86 out of 100 rating, based on 30 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".

In Japan it was released in theaters on September 17 and grossed a total of $328,750 during its first weekend.


List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result }}
Academy Awards February 26, 2017 Best Animated Feature Michal Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki
Annie Awards February 4, 2017 Best Animated Feature "? Independent The Red Turtle
Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in an Animated Production Mouloud Oussid
Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Feature Production Michal Dudok de Wit
Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated Feature Production Laurent Perez del Mar
Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated Feature Production Michal Dudok de Wit and Pascale Ferran
Cannes Film Festival May 21, 2016 Un Certain Regard Special Prize Michal Dudok de Wit
Prize Un Certain Regard
Camera d'Or
Chicago Film Critics Association December 15, 2016 Best Animated Film The Red Turtle
Critics' Choice Awards December 11, 2016 Best Animated Feature
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 4, 2016 Best Animated Film
Magritte Award February 4, 2017 Best Foreign Film in Coproduction
Best Sound Nils Fauth and Peter Soldan
Online Film Critics Society January 3, 2017 Best Animated Feature The Red Turtle
San Francisco Film Critics Circle December 11, 2016 Best Animated Feature
Satellite Awards February 19, 2017 Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature
Toronto Film Critics Association December 11, 2016 Best Animated Film

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